Following a much needed win over Cung Le in November, Wanderlei Silva says he no longer feels his back is against the wall as he heads into a catchweight bout against Rich Franklin at UFC 147 in Belo, Horizonte, Brazil.
That wall though, he says, still feels close.
“I think I took one step away from that wall,” Silva told ESPN.com. “I still need to prove I can fight.”
Silva, 35, has proven numerous times he can fight, but the question has become whether or not he can physically hold up in one. The longtime veteran has handed out his share of punishment during a 16-year career -- but taken it as well.
After suffering a knockout loss to Chris Leben last year in a fight that lasted just 27 seconds, UFC president Dana White openly questioned whether Silva’s fighting career should continue.
The Brazilian fighter responded by undergoing medical evaluations to prove his health, then saved his job with the second-round TKO victory over Le at UFC 139.
Now with wins in two of his last three fights, Silva’s career can breathe a little, but he knows he’s still walking a fine line. As of now, he says it doesn’t only come down to wins and losses. It’s how things play out.
“We’ll need to look at the performance,” Silva said. “I feel good. I hope to make a good fight that makes the boss and the fans happy.
“I’m more healthy now than I was at 22 years because I train and live a really good life. We are not like machines; we can’t train as fast after years but I feel really happy and I want to give fans a good fight. When I can’t do that anymore, I’ll stop.”
Silva (34-11-1) added he’s been training for this fight with former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua and laughed when talking about the shots he’s absorbed from “Shogun.”
“In that camp, my chin is so good,” Silva said. “Definitely, he hit me on the chin and man -- the chin is no problem.”
Originally scheduled to fight Vitor Belfort, Silva now faces Franklin in a rematch of a fight that took place in Cologne, Germany in June 2009. Franklin won via unanimous decision.
Silva expressed the Belfort fight still means a lot to him and he would like the opportunity to face him in the future. As Silva put it, “the fight isn’t cancelled, we’ll just wait for it.”
He also wouldn’t mind appearing in the Octagon inside a soccer stadium, as was originally planned for UFC 147. The promotion hit a snag on booking the Joao Havelange Stadium in Rio de Janeiro and ultimately relocated.
While he’s been relatively stubborn to the idea of his career ending in the past, Silva has opened up a little on how he plans to maintain his relationship with the sport when his fighting days are over.
He plans to open several charity gyms in Brazil, which will provide free training to the country’s youth and hopefully keep them away from drug use.
“My next step is give opportunities so that guys can train,” Silva said. “I watch here in Brazil and we’ve lost a lot of talent just because guys don’t have a membership to the gym. I want to make free gyms in the community.
“If you open one little gym that has some mats and one bag, you can save lives. I’m happy right now. I have my own money. I don’t need to make too much more money where I’m at in my life. For now, I want to help others.”